Minus the hyphen
I work as an artist curator, minus the hyphen. I attempt to balance both roles: seeking the concentration and focus of making images, objects and installations that are directed at the individual viewer; embracing the collaborative and enabling task of shaping exhibitions and events that are created in the company of others.
As an artist, I work invariably with a high definition camera, but my intention is to reach beyond the image - towards the naking of an effective and affective object, perhaps even an experience. Inevitably, this leads me to explore both materials and the immaterial, scale and the use of space. As well printing on art paper, I print onto aluminium, acetate and fabric, especially linen and cotton. When appropriate, I like to let the prints hang freely, unmounted and unframed, so they can respond reflexively to movements in the air. And I use translucency to animate the prints further, as they alter their appearance in response to changes in the light. Although these frequently large prints are at the centre of my output, recent exhibitions have included video projections, sound installations and handmade books, or booklike objects.
As a curator, I seek to create exhibitions that both generate and contribute to conversations that cross boundaries and widen horizons. In addition to visual artists, my exhibitions can include contributions from performers, using action, movement, speech and music.
I have always worked with cameras, mostly as a filmmaker. In this role, I have frequently collaborated with visual artists, performers and writers, and with scholars in a wide range of disciplines. Together, we have explored the recurring themes of identity, belief, power and its abuses, and humankind’s troubled relationship with the rest of nature.
The influence of the visual arts has run through my films as a continuous stream. So it became inevitable that, at some stage, I would commit myself to becoming a visual artist myself. At first, I embraced stillness and silence, in my efforts to refine a visual language that I had been developing both alongside and within my filmmaking. But, over the years, movement and sound have returned, along with an increasing interest with objects defined by space.
My principal tool today is a high-resolution digital camera capable of producing very large prints. What I do now frequently feels to me much more like the act of mark-making than photography. Of course, that could mean many things but, for me, it is essentially about seeking to create an emotional, contemplative experience for the viewer rather than a depiction of the world around us…even though some dimension of the world around us is invariably an essential starting point.
With a nod to Cartier-Bresson, I now address the “indecisive moment”, when layers of time spread and bend and pile on top of each other, often obscuring rather than revealing any potential moment of truth. I explore paradox and contradiction, through evoking continuing processes rather than singular events. Often those processes I hint at are invisible, hidden in darkness.
Those snatches of physics and neuro-science that I can hang on to have confirmed the prejudices of my daily experience: the moment -any moment- is an illusion. By the time our brain and nervous system tell us what we have seen, and what sense it might make to us, it is already well in the past, in the realm of memory. And we all know how unreliable our memory can be. Quite often and experience of the elusive "present" becomes a form of invention, a fabrication, even a justification.
Going with the Flow
The bison on the cave wall, Vermeer’s maid pouring milk from an earthenware jug, the numinous colour fields of Rothko - each holds us with its stillness. Such majestic works invite us to think and feel with a level concentration that can calm, strengthen and inspire us. They can induce a state of meditation. Yet what is the content of these pictures? Motion, Action. Event. Even the grids of Mondrian and Martin have a dynamism of their own And they reach our consciousness at the awesome speed of 299,792,458 metres per second, where they join the unimaginably complex set of motions, actions and events that make up the human body and mind.
Modern science confirms what the Taoists proposed thousands of years ago, in China: nothing is still. The priests, sages and scholar poets called the vibrating energy that flows through all things Ch’i, which translates as breath. The traditions of ancient India, Egypt and Greece had similar concepts, and they used their words for breath in similarly metaphorical ways. The Greek word pneuma can be translated as both breath and soul. Psyche is another word for the soul, mind, spirit, or invisible animating entity which occupies the physical body. Like the Taoists, the Stoic philosophers of Athens believed that pneuma flows through matter, both living and inanimate.
Today quantum and particle physics give us models of the universe that echo the metaphor of Ch'i. Now many of us accept that nothing is stable, nothing certain, nothing fixed. Stability might be an illusion, but under such febrile conditions it can look an increasingly attractive illusion to indulge in, a haven. I have certainly not abandoned stillness in my work, but have been forced to acknowledge that movement through time, beginnings, middles and ends, juxaposition and narrative maintain their grip on me. And, far from being ignored, the tensions between stillness and motion, stasis and change, order and chaos, location and duration, space and time have become for me primary material.
As an organizing principle for my picture-making, I have adopted the universal phenomenon of FLOW, a word that lies at the heart of Taoism. I cannot conceive any form of existence without flow. Continuous, contained, directed movement manifest whenever one looks, thinks or feels, as in the flow of ideas, feelings and time. In his much-quoted commentary on the relationship between ancient philosophies and modern science, The Dao of Physics, Fritjof Capra writes:
The Chinese ... not only believed that flow and change were the essential features of nature, but also that there are constant patterns in these changes, to be observed by man. The sage recognizes these patterns and directs his actions according to them. In this way he becomes “one with the Dao”, living in harmony with nature...
Painting and poetry were the two leading forms of Chinese culture when Taoism was in the ascendancy. Often they were brought together on scrolls, where the calligraphic text -the idea- became an integral part of the visual scheme. Much of this painting and poetry grew out of close observation of the world that surrounded the scholar artists and their patrons, most especially the world in its natural order, uninterrupted by human agency. For Chinese scroll painters theres was not the art of the single perspective landscape painter of the European tradition but an immersive vision in which the artist’s viewpoint shifts through space and time. It is a way of looking that has come to seem completely natural in our own even more fractured, fragmented universe. What is cubism but a response to the atomisation of industrialised, globalised modernity? And what is Romanticism but a cry of anguish in response to the first signs of the processes that were turning all of humankind, and all of nature, into the moving parts of an unstoppable machine?
The logic of our abuse of nature is the existential -possibly terminal- crisis that we all now face. It is slowly, so slowly, dawning on us that, if we continue to break the laws of nature they will eventually break us. Einstein, put it this way:
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe ... We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.
filmmaker writer photographer
Recent and forthcoming exhibitions include:
2020 Happenings @ Walcot Chapel, Bath (artist and co-curator)
FLOW Light&Air, Totnes Art Trail, Devon
2019 B-Wing, Shepton Mallet Prison, Somerset;
Reformation, The Bishops Palace, Wells;
Paper Structures, Spike Island Studios, Bristol;
FLOW Reflections on Water, The ICE Space, Bath;
Movement, Access, Barrier, Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, ActionReaction, Spike Island printspace,Bristol
2018 LIVE, Walcot Chapel, Bath and other venues in the city (artist and curator);
Unity in Diversity, Gabriel Fine Art at 508 King's Road Gallery, Chelsea
2017 Digital Takeover, Bath Digital Festival;
Law of Identity, 44AD Bath;
Time after Time, North Wall, Oxford (artist and curator);
Conversations with the Wind, TTTFF, Totnes (artist and curator)
2016 Storylines, 44AD Bath; Find another Bath, 44AD Bath; Open Square, RUH, Bath; Utopia:Dystopia, FaB16 Festival, venues across Bath (artist and curator);
Direction, Centrespace, Bristol; Waiting Room art and science 44AD with Bath University
2015 Deck the Walls, 44AD Bath;
Out of Time, Gabriel Fine Art, Waterloo, London;
SAW, Red Brick Building, Glastonbury;
Love & Death @ Walcot Chapel, FaB15 Festival, Bath (artist and curator);
Still, 44AD, Bath
2014 Deck the Walls, 44AD Bath; Festive, Andelli Arts, Wells;
Art of Nature 3, Balaji Temple, Birmingham;
Eighth Wonder, 44AD, Bath; Forest of Imagination, 44AD Bath; Timeslip, FaB14 Festival, Bath; Windscapes, Dorchester County Hospital, Dorset
2013 Transformations, PhotoPlace, Middlebury, Vermont;
Vinis Vinifera, Dalston, London;
Creekside Open, APT Gallery, Deptford, London;
TM13, Real Fonderia Gallery, Palermo, Sicily;
Lyme Open 2013, Malthouse Gallery, Lyme Regis, Dorset (Prizewinner)
2012 SCOPE, Miami, Florida;
Colletiva 1, Garage Bonci, Pietrasanta, Tuscany;
Immersive video presentation for Cultural Olympiad, ICCI 360 degree Arena, Olympic sailing venue, Weymouth, Dorset.
Film presentations and talks include: ICA, National Gallery, Tate and NFT, London - Modern Art Oxford - Ikon, Birmingham - Orchard, Edinburgh and others across UK - MoMA, Metropolitan, Whitney and Broadcasting Museums, New York - Pompidou Centre, Paris - National Gallery, Sydney.
As well as making my own artwork I have made films featuring visual artists as diverse as Rembrandt and Jean Michel Basquiat, Giotto and Joseph Beuys, Michael Nelson Tjakamarra and Anselm Kiefer. History, politics, belief and ideas run as continuous strands through my work as a fillmaker, but so too do the sensuous and emotional.
I have travelled the world as an award-winning filmmaker, most often in the context of international broadcast. This has taken me to close to 60 countries and has given me a wide frame of cultural reference. It has also given me the privilege to work closely with writers of the eminence of Edward Said, Alice Oswald, Simon Schama, Salman Rushdie, Edward Bond, Michael Gilsenan, Fay Weldon, Yves Michauxd, Felipe Fernandez Armesto, John McCarthy; musicians with the eminence of Simon Rattle, David Byrne, Andy Sheppard; and dancer-choreographers with the eminence of Merce Cunningham, Siobhan Davies, Bill T Jones, Karole Armitage, Wim Vandekeybus, Tamasaburo. I have worked with hundreds of less illustrious people but that has not diminished, in any way, my sense of privilege to both represent and learn from them.
I was a co-founder of Illuminations, one of the most successful London-based production companies, focussing on contemporary culture. My photographs have been published widely in newspapers and magazines. I have contributed as a photographer to several books and have been sole photographer on two.
I am a member of the Unesco supported Art of Nature network. I am an associate artist at Spike Island, Bristol,and a committee member of FaB, Fringe Arts Bath.
STATE OF THE ART. A much-praised and much-pilloried six-part series on ideas and images in the nineteen eighties. Illuminations Channel 4 /WDR Cologne. 6 x 1 mins
BFI Grierson award nomination.
SHOOTING STAR, a celebrated posthumous portrait of the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Illuminations for Channel 4. 1 x 60mins
SHOCK OF THE NEO, a playful exploration on questions of originality in art. 1hr. Channel 4.
L’OBJET D’ART A L’AGE ELECTRONIQUE, a playful exploration on the status and value of art, made for the opening night of the French cultural network La Sept. 1hr.
THE VANISHING REMBRANDTS. An exploration of questions of authenticity, focusing on the Rembrandt Research Project, based in Amsterdam. 1hr. BBC / Arts Council of Great Britain coproduction.
Winner grand prize, Bratislava Film Festival.
IVANOV GOES TO MOSCOW A study of actors under pressure, starring Ralph Fiennes, Harriet Walter and Bill Paterson. A journey with the company of Almeida Theatre to Moscow, where they performed Chekhov’s first complete play, IVANOV. 1 hr. Channel 4/National Video Corporation.
THE MERCE CUNNINGHAM TRAVELOGUE. A portrait in movement of the great choreographer. 1hr. LWT.
DANCING, an eight-part series for PBS in America in coproduction with the BBC and RM International . Filmed on six continents, the most ambitious presentation of dance in its social, cultural and historical context ever produced for television. 1hrx8.
Malta Prize at the International Festival for Films on Dance, Paris.
Dunlop’s episode Dance Centrestage final nomination Primetime Emmy.
THE BIG READ: GREAT EXPECTATIONS
David Dimbleby entertainingly puts the case for Dickens’ masterpiece. 30 mins. BBC.
LANDSCAPE AND MEMORY. Three of five films for an innovative series with the renowned historian SIMON SCHAMA. 5x40mins. BBC.
MASKS OF ARCADIA. An intimate portrait of a Japanese community under the pressures of change. BBC/A&E. 1 x 60mins
ONCE IN A LIFETIME. A video entertainment with the cult band Talking Heads. Illuminations for Channel 4. 1 x 80mins.
BFI Grierson award nomination.
THE MAGICAL INDIAN ROADSHOW. The struggle by travelling entertainers to survive in modern India. BBC
1 x 60 mins
DESERT DREAMERS. The story of the translation of spirtual imagery into the dot painting movement in central Australia. BBC. 1 x 60mins
THE SHADOW OF THE WEST. A collaboration with the Palestinian writer and intellectual EDWARD SAID. One of four films Dunlop made for the series THE ARABS. Video Arts/Kufic for Channel 4. 4 x 60mins
THE RIDDLE OF MIDNIGHT. A documentary study of the generation of Midnight’s Children, written and presented by SALMAN RUSHDIE. Antelope Productions for
Channel 4/RM Arts. 1 x 75 mins.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS JOHN McCARTHY returns to Lebanon for the first time since he spent five years in captivity there, as the hostage of Shia gunmen. ORTV for ITV Network.
1 x 60mins
PALESTINE STREET A two-part film to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba - the "catastrophe', as Palestinians describe the creation of Israel. This intimate and personal film focusses on a street in the ancient city of Jaffa, now a suburb of Tel Aviv. Al-Jazeera English. 2 x 60 mins.
FACES OF ISLAM Personal portraits of prominent Muslims.
4x20 mins. OR Media for BBC 1.
FAULTLINES An exploration of the complex relationship between religion and politics in six contrasting societies – USA, Iran, India, Brazil, Russia, Israel/Palestine. A collaboration with the writer/presenter JOHN McCARTHY. CTVC for ITV Network. 6x40mins
CHINA UTOPIA An exploration of the renaissance in China a thousand years ago, and its relationship with the newly-awakening China of the twenty-first century. Illuminations/Muse Films, NY for Christiansen Foundation. 1x30mins.
THE WELL OF SACRIFICE, a dramatised film for the Discovery Channel, set in Mexico. It tells the extraordinary story of Edward Thompson, who discovered treasures in the Mayan city of Chichen Itza and smuggled them to the United States at the turn of the century. Atlantic Films for DISCOVERY 1hr.
BARRICADES. The attempts of three young women in Lebanon to live “ordinary” lives through ten years of civil war. Thames, ITV 1 x 60mins
THE GROWING PAINS OF EDEN and THE GARDENERS OF EDEN Two films for BBC 2 on this extraordinary environmental organisation. Denham Films for BBC. 2 x 60 mins
NEW YORK CLEANS UP, LONDON PRIDE, NETWORK CITY. Three episodes for a series on the changing face of modern cities. Open University Production Centre for BBC2. 2 x 30mins.
ARE YOU CAPTAIN CORELLI? The extraordinary true story of Captain Amos Pampaloni, the survivor of a massacre on the Greek island of Cephalonia sixty years ago. Made to coincide with the release of the feature film "Captain Corelli's Mandolin". The year's most watched arts programme on BBC 2 in the year of production BBC Knowledge/ET-1 Greece.
1 x 60mins
TO THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, an intimate film about a pilgrimage from a community in western Nepal to Mt. Kailash in Tibet. Vafe Productions for FR3, NDR, BSkyB, UFA Non-fiction. 1 x 60mins Prizewinner Teluride Festival, Colorado and International Festival of Mountain and Explorations Films, Toulouse.
BANKING ON THE FUTURE An extraordinary enterprise conducted by street children in India's capita, Delhi. Al-Jazeera English / ORTV. 1 x 30 mins.
EDUCATION IN CONFLICT A study of children and young adults struggling to gain an education in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq. Qatar Foundation /Al-Jazeera English. 2 x 60 mins.
GOD’S BUSINESS An investigation of the relationship between money and power in the oldest of the great multinational enterprises, religious institutions around the world. Reporter John McCarthy. Al-Jazeera English / ORTV. 6 x 30 mins.
LEBANON: The Next Generation
KURDISTAN: A State of Uncertainty
Primetime documentaries for BBC Radio 4 which I co-wrote and produced with my longterm collaborator John McCarthy.